By TELA DURBIN
SEBRING -- The first Mahoning County school project funded by the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission is officially open.
Community members and local and state school officials were on hand for the Sebring McKinley High School and B.L. Miller Elementary School dedication ceremony and open house Sunday.
The two-school renovation project, funded by the OSFC, began in 1998 and was the first OSFC-funded project to be started and completed in Mahoning County. The state funded $14.2 million, and local funds totaled about $1.7 million.
Randall Fisher, the executive director at the OSFC, offered congratulations at the ceremony.
Scope of work: Howard Friend, Sebring school superintendent, said the district completely renovated its kindergarten-through-fourth-grade building, adding 11 classrooms, including new art and music rooms, as well as a media center and gymnasium. He said the goal was to make the building look new. The building now houses grades kindergarten through sixth grade. The district sold the old fifth- and sixth-grade building to the city.
Friend said that Sebring's seventh-through-12th-grade high school is equipped with a new auditorium, cafeteria and computer lab, as well as nine new classrooms and two new science rooms. Fourteen classrooms were renovated in the high school, and it kept its old gymnasium, which was built in 1937, while adding an additional gymnasium. Friend noted that the old gym will be used by the junior high.
Belinda McNeal, a Sebring resident who has two children, Kara and Michael, in seventh grade, said she attended the dedication ceremonies because she likes to be involved with the schools.
"I think [the schools] are beautiful," she said. "The [new] gym really impresses me. Pictures don't do it justice."
Scores with coach: Dr. Don Swegan, the high school girls basketball coach, also liked the new gym.
"As a coach, I am impressed with the new gym. It has excellent seating and lighting. It's a pleasure to be able to work with the first team to play in the gym," he said. "The rest of the school is wonderful, too -- the cafeteria, auditorium, media center. It's all impressive."
Friend said he is proud of the new facilities and especially appreciative of the community support while undergoing the renovations. He also praised the staff and students of his schools.
"We moved a lot of people around while trying to finish the projects, and everyone pitched in. It might not have been the most ideal situation for learning, but they made the best of it. The cooperation we received from the students and teachers was outstanding," Friend said.